Saturday, March 2, 2013

Nutty Wild Rice Salad, Loaded with Flavor

I am wild about wild rice; the name alone suggests something tempting, alluringly exotic. It hints at a different taste experience well beyond that of the "regular" rices stocked at the local grocery. Wild rice is different, so different that technically it isn't even a rice. Nope, it isn't even genetically related. "Wild rice" is the common name given to an aquatic grass plant (Zizania) and the seed that it produces. Wild Rice is America’s oldest grain and it is the only cereal grain indigenous to North America.

Today's rice came from Canada, with a label boasting it was "natural grown, 100% lake wild rice, machine harvested by airboat."  Minnesota is also renowned for its naturally-occurring wild rice, though my pantry holds a cultivated product, not hand-harvested from any lake or river. California claims title to producing the most wild rice in the world, cultivating the grain in huge paddies in the Sacramento River delta region. No matter what the origin, use whatever wild rice variety is readily available and affordable and let it contribute its woodsy flavor and chewy texture to a favorite recipe. 

Wild rice is delicious when simply cooked in a broth, tossed with melted butter or a light vinaigrette, and dusted with grated parmesan cheese or a sprinkle of grated lemon zest. But today I craved big, bold flavors, contrasting textures, bright colors... I wanted a surprise in every bite. So forget the simple approach and layer on the flavors and crunch.

This salad began with a tried and true recipe from The Silver Palate cookbook...

...and then I added a few more items, one by one, and taste-tested my way to the final combination. Hmmm, add a little more mint, then some feta cheese. Toss in a handful of orange-flavored dried cranberries to join the party, add some chopped Italian parsley and a big splash of lime. And so it went. 

Finally, this was it, a nutty wild rice salad that was yummy at lunch and even better as a late night snack after the flavors had more time to mellow and blend.    

Nutty Wild Rice Salad
adapted from The Silver Palate Cookbook
3-4 servings

1/2 cup (1/4 pound) uncooked wild rice
2 1/2 cups low sodium chicken stock
1/2 cup shelled pecan halves, rough chopped
1/2 cup sultanas (yellow raisins)
1/2 cup dried cranberries
grated rind from 1 large orange
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
1/4 cup fresh Italian (flat leaf) parsley, chopped
2 scallions (green onions), thinly sliced
1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup orange juice
A handful of Feta cheese, crumbled, to taste
a tablespoon or two of lime juice, to taste
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  1. Rinse rice thoroughly under cold water; drain in strainer.
  2. Place rice in a heavy medium-sized saucepan. Add the stock and bring to a hearty boil. Lower heat and simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes. After 30 minutes check for dryness and firmness of rice - don't let it cook so long it turns too soft. Line a colander or strainer with a thin tea towel; dump the rice into the colander and drain. Transfer the drained rice to a mixing bowl.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients to the cooked rice and toss gently. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Let the mixture rest for several hours to allow flavors to develop and blend. Taste again and adjust seasonings again if necessary. Serve at room temperature.


  1. Sounds delicious.

  2. I have yet to find anything in the Silver Palate Cookbook that I don't absolutely love. It's a timeless book with so many timeless recipes. I haven't tried this salad, but it's absolutely something I know I would love - thank you for pointing me in its direction!

  3. This is a great salad! Love all of the flavors and textures!

    1. Warmed in the microwave today, it was a delicious side dish at lunch. Love this salad!

  4. Hi there, just letting you know that your link to Food on Friday: Apples was featured in my Need Some Inspiration? Series today. Have a nice week.

    1. Thanks for the heads up, Carole, I'm looking forward to some apple inspiration.


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